Brrr! I write this column on Monday morning. I’m looking at four degrees. If memory serves me, and it rarely does, I don’t believe we were in the single digits all last winter. There are many advantages to having woodstoves. Today I can’t think of any. I actually saw my breath in the kitchen before I got the wood cookstove cranking. It is a wonderful piece of equipment but it refuses to go through the night. It does, however, heat right up once lit. I purchased it a few years ago from the Knox Stove Company out of Tennessee. They specialize in stoves for the Amish. It is well suited for long-cooked soups and stews. The oven can be used for meat and casseroles. Simply opening and closing the door adjusts the temperature. If the wood is crispy and small it is called “biscuit wood” and will make a hot enough fire to bake biscuits.

Janice Brown at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School shared this tip. A few asphalt shingles kept in the car can be placed under the tires with the grainy side down. They will help move the car out of a slippery situation. I love that information as my driveway has become a skating rink.

Also at the charter school, Sam Green, one of Violet’s third grade teachers, shared this gem. It seems a French perfumer burned his hand. He plunged it into what he thought was water. Turns out it was lavender oil. The burn stopped hurting at once and healed quickly. I used some on a burn recently and sure enough it worked. As we know from elementary school experience lavender oil also works as a deterrent for head lice.

My friend Sharlee had a raccoon wipe out her flock of hens last week. I loathe them. It actually used its hands to open the latch on the henhouse. Since I also experienced the loss of a few hens to a Cooper’s hawk, we are planning an order to Murray McMurray Hatchery. The minimum shipment is 25 so we will fill in with some Cornish game hens for summer suppers. The hens will take five months to lay eggs but the meat birds will be ready in six to eight weeks. The heather at David Finklestein’s office is simply beautiful, especially blooming above the snow cover. Right up the street notice the felled tree. The entire inside is rotted. It’s terrifying to think of a tree of that magnitude next to one’s house. I don’t know how it held itself up as long as it did.

I just finished a delightful little book, The Garden Doctor. It was first published in 1913. It is a memoir of a sickly woman who regains her health in a garden. I have to quote one of the woman’s mentors. She asked how one could possibly do it all. He answered, “Judicious management and autumn planting. Gardening consists not so much in a wild frenzy of industry in the spring as in doing odd bits of work at the proper time — here a little and there a little. In doing things not so much when others sleeps as when they do not think about it. The difficulty in which the Foolish Virgins (see Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25) found themselves was not that the oil for the lamps was impossible to obtain; it would have been a most simple matter had they done the work at the proper time. Most people garden after the matter of the Foolish Virgins and rush frantically about the work when the season has already begun.” There you have it. Now is always the season to start.

Both the New York Times and NPR offered up some interesting information last week. It seems there is a growing movement to increase the size of the U.S. House of Representatives. At the founding of the country each congressman represented 30,000 people — today 700,000 share the same representative. We on the Vineyard could have our own. I can think of several up to the task.